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Sydneysiders willing to use tech for reporting non-urgent crimes

31 Jan 18

Sydneysiders are more than happy to become crime-stoppers, but only if their privacy is maintained in the process, according to a Safe Cities study from Unisys.

The global survey included responses from 398 Sydney residents, of which almost 90% say they would be willing to use online digital media to submit potential evidence to law enforcement.

Earlier this month the Australian Federal Police expressed interest in using crowdsourced evidence for submission. It published a request for information through AusTender as it sought to gain feedback about a similar initiative.

“Australian state police forces and Department of Home Affairs agencies make good use of online channels to distribute information, but the community is keen to also submit information online, including photo and video evidence. The public wants to use the digital tools they have at their fingertips, such as smartphones. However, they also want to retain a degree of control over how and when they engage with law enforcement,” comments Unisys Asia Pacific Justice and Law Enforcement subject matter expert Tim Green.

The Unisys survey found that Sydney respondents would most likely use the technology in situations that are not time-critical, such as reporting suspicious behaviour, receiving traffic alerts or requesting a police incident number.

For urgent and dangerous situation, most Sydney respondents would prefer to phone police in the event of a crime, car accident or domestic violence. Respondents aged over 50 are also more likely to contact police through digital channels.

For those incidents that are not urgent, 48% say the technology would be convenient; 45% say it would help to report crime faster and 43% say there is a benefit to uploading photos and video.

However they are sceptical about some of the barriers: 41% worry that messages might not reach the right person; and 38% worry the technology may fail.

They are also sceptical about the powers they give law enforcement to access data: Only 37% would allow police to have remote PC access to investigate hate crimes or online bullying; however 78% would be willing to submit digital photos as part of evidence procedures.

Further, 50% are happy with law enforcement monitoring personal communication and 48% support social media monitoring.

In regards to IoT and other forms of security, 81% of Sydney respondents support some IoT technologies such as sensors that can alert authorities to various events.

These events could include technologies that detect the presence of emergency vehicles, those that register harmful chemicals and set off alarms to protect people.

Some Sydney respondents would be wary if the police had technologies to allow facial recognition or video surveillance to identify suspicious people or activities, however 69% support proactive surveillance.

Respondents are also supportive of 24-hour surveillance crime prevention, depending on the area in which it is located. 63% would support surveillance in airports; followed by 37% support for public transport; 34% support for public streets; and 27% support for sporting events. Support for parks, public buildings and religious buildings fell lower on the scale.

“As cities and individuals become more connected by technology, there is a huge opportunity to use these ‘Smart Cities’ capabilities to better engage the public in ‘Safe Cities’ public safety initiatives,” Green says.

“It is essential police and government agencies use digital platforms to take community security to a new level. The benefits are numerous: improved and more responsive partnerships, more timely and appropriate service response and increased case clearance rates. However, public trust in governments and their police agencies ultimately defines the scope and types of capability that will be acceptable," he concludes.